Today's Letters: Our lack of rain is not the real water problem
By LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published April 7, 2007
Accompanying the April 4 article No rain, no relief as region dries up is a photograph of a Pinellas County water enforcement officer collecting a sample of water from a sprinkler so he can leave a warning for the person who is trying to preserve the investment he made in his lawn. That's typical, and exactly what one would expect to see these days.
Our local government officials and Swiftmud are so beholden to the greedy developers and builders that their only solution to each year's water shortages is to impose greater water-use restrictions and increase enforcement of them.
When are these people going to wake up and realize that water shortages are only going to get more frequent, more severe and longer-lasting as long as they continue to allow developers in the area to build thousands and thousands of new homes? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that every new person moving into the area increases the demands on our limited water resources.
But I guess it's just business as usual among politicians. It's much easier and more profitable to ignore the problems of the average citizen and concentrate on doing whatever produces more campaign contributions and a larger tax base.
A.T. Barnard, Beverly Hills
Save water, not lawns
I really get sick when I listen to people being interviewed on the news about their water woes. They whine so bad about something they take for granted all the time: water use.
Now they complain about their lawns dying. Well maybe they should have drought-resistant grass or landscaping that can live long periods without water.
Water is definitely a wasting-away resource. Look around and you'll see the ponds and lakes drying up. This is called drought. So stop fighting mother nature and stop wasting water on stupid things like grass. If you do water, then do it by hand and don't have the water running down the driveway to the streets.
Ride around and look at all the ponds and lakes drying up. That's what you get when you care more about your precious grass instead of human life.
Rob Gibson, Dunedin
I don't need the newspaper to tell me when we are having a drought. I just listen for the sound of the sprinkler coming from my neighbor's yard during an all-night watering session. Or look for the water flowing down the street and into the gutter.
Folks in my neighborhood like to have a clean driveway. Looks good alongside the lush lawn.
Drought? Not in my neighborhood.
Glenda Pittman, St. Petersburg
Bill puts wetlands protection at risk April 3, editorial
Speak up for wetlands
Thank you for your editorial comments. As a citizen of Florida and Hernando County, I agree that cities and counties should be able to adopt restrictions that strengthen the state's standards for protecting local wetlands. Citizens are concerned about the health of our environment and the biodiversity it supports.
We may not be able to attend every zoning meeting in order to speak up for conserving wetlands. With adequate local rules in place, in addition to state and federal regulations, maybe the necessary protection will take place. I agree with your editorial position and urge other concerned citizens to speak up!
Debbie McKevitt, Brooksville
Bill puts wetlands protection at risk April 3, editorial
A vital resource
Regarding your editorial on the amendment to House Bill 957 that would eliminate local protection to Florida's wetlands: It is crucial that all Floridians urge their state representatives to oppose this plan.
If we don't say "no" to protect this vital part of Florida, the height of hotels, the style of your house, or the number of condos being built will be of no importance.
Melinda Galaher, St. Pete Beach
State closes tap on Everglades water April 4, story
What about the rest of Florida? Why in heaven's name, when we repeatedly have water restrictions, are huge new developments even being thought about, let alone allowed to be built?
First the Suncoast Parkway was allowed to go through extremely valuable water-collecting areas, and now just take a drive on the parkway. There are thousands of homes being built.
How about redeveloping areas that are already built?
Greed? At the rate things are going, this entire state will be a total mess sooner rather than later. Just because the cash cow is available does not make it the "right thing to do" with our valuable natural resources.
Judith Jones, Largo
It's time to rein in the FBI's snooping March 28, editorial
We need FBI snooping
At the end of December 2005, I retired as special agent in charge of the FBI's Jacksonville Division with 22 years of FBI service. Your editorial suggesting it's time to rein in the FBI's snooping lacks some much-needed background and clarity.
Your editorial points out that in the year 2000, only 8,500 "national security letters" were issued. What you must realize is in 2000 the FBI's primary mission was not preventing terrorism. After the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the FBI finds itself no longer just responsible for the formidable task of solving serious crimes, but is now mandated to prevent acts of terrorism. The extraordinary increase in NSLs resulted from the thousands of agents who suddenly found themselves answerable for preventing another 9/11.
You suggest the FBI should submit to the oversight of a court set up under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. That would be fine if the FISA court was capable of expeditiously addressing the volume of work that would be brought before it. I can tell you from personal experience: It is easier to obtain a warrant to search a suspected drug dealer's home than it is to obtain a FISA court order to allow you to search a suspected terrorist's home. The journey of a FISA request from the FBI through the Department of Justice and on to the FISA court is painfully slow. Why? Ask DOJ. I don't know why the intake process isn't swift. The fact that it isn't defies logic and fails to recognize the extremely dangerous nature of some of the people with whom we are dealing.
I am not saying mistakes haven't been made. The Patriot Act was quickly constructed and the lack of specific oversight was something we in the FBI were aware of early on. It was director Robert Mueller who insisted internal inquiries be made to determine the accuracy of the process. Mueller should be praised for recognizing the Patriot Act's shortcomings and stepping up to take responsibility for making the FBI accountable when the Patriot Act didn't.
Ultimately, reining in the FBI's "snooping," as you called it, is not the answer. For all of our nation's safety and peace of mind, you better pray the FBI continues to "snoop" to the max.
Provide the FBI with reasonable oversight, with more agents, with a FISA process that doesn't get stalled in slow motion at the Justice Department, and recognize that with all of the great work being done by the FBI, mistakes are bound to be made. But remember, the vast majority of FBI agents are out there working incredibly long hours, dedicated to the FBI's motto of Fidelity, Bravery and Integrity, and doing their best to protect you and all Americans from the very real threat of terrorism.
Robert Cromwell, Gulfport
Giuliani takes early swings for president April 5, story
Keep voters informed
Thank you for covering presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani's recent visit to St. Petersburg. Tampa Bay voters will get many opportunities to see the candidates for president over the next 18 months. I hope the Times uses the opportunity to explain what the candidates are saying on the issues that matter.
Unfortunately, you missed a chance to do so in Giuliani's visit. He talked extensively about his interest in fixing the nation's broken health care system, but that wasn't mentioned in your coverage at all.
Hopefully, Giuliani and his fellow candidates for president will recognize that real solutions to the health care and financial security issues are important, and require that individuals, employers and government work together across ideological lines to find practical solutions. And hopefully, when they commit to important ideas on these issues, the Times will give them extensive coverage so voters can make an informed choice.
Vollie Riskin, St. Petersburg
VA care fails March 31, letter
VA is a blessing
I sympathize with the letter writer and am sorry to hear that he is totally disabled due to injuries received serving this country during Vietnam.
I, too, am a veteran. I served five years in the U.S. Navy and went to Korea, but unlike the letter writer, I was not wounded. In 1996 the VA came to our town in New Jersey to sign up veterans for medical care. At the time I said I wasn't wounded and didn't have any disabilities. I was told it did not matter and that I should avail myself of the VA hospitals, doctors, etc.
I moved to Florida in 1996 and transferred my records to the Florida VA, and I am very happy I did. All of a sudden things started to fall apart in the health department, and I am so thankful for the VA for taking such good care of me. I use the Outpatient Clinic on Little Road in New Port Richey, and I am more than satisfied. The amount of people that pass through that clinic is mind-boggling, and even when they are short-handed they never fail to treat me. I have never had them cancel an appointment, and they go out of their way to give me appointments when it is convenient for me.
I have nothing but praise for the facility and the staff that runs it. God bless the VA.
John P. Joyce, Spring Hill
A flawed claims system
I have been reading with interest the comments concerning VA medical care at Bay Pines. I served in the Air Force as an aircraft assistant crew chief (mechanic). I was injured in the service, and the VA claims processing system is too slow (maybe they hope you die before they make a decision).
I now have a claim for benefits that is more than 14 years old and still pending. I have a number of people I know who have filed claims with the VA and wait years for a decision, and often the decision appears to be in error, which if they appeal, adds more years to a determination. (Of course the VA does not pay interest on retroactive pay you receive when the decision is reversed years later.)
The VA claims system is biased in favor of the government, and veterans get cheated. I wish the mainstream media would publicize this better, so people who are patriotic and want to serve their country at least know how they will be treated (badly) if they are injured in the service.
Christina Dove, St. Petersburg
NRA power play stomps on safety April 2, editorial
Skip the stereotypes
Here we go again: Another editorial bashing a proposed law as an "NRA power play," the work of right-wing radical nut jobs, and lunatics wanting guns at hand waiting for the moment we finally go off the "deep end."
Have you considered that the NRA is made up of millions of honest, hardworking, sane American citizens who love gun collecting, target shooting, hunting and just plain being able to defend themselves and their families because police are not always sitting at the scene of criminal activity? This is not some lunatic fringe group as you would have readers believe, pushing for laws that have no basis in the Constitution!
Being a proud NRA member, I can tell you that I am also a proud lifelong voting Democrat. Not all members and gun enthusiasts are right wing and conservative in nature as you would have people believe. We are as varied as the voting public. Like many voters, I proudly support this bill and thank God for the efforts of the NRA as well as tough lawmakers who will stand up for the Constitution and the Second Amendment.
Law-abiding citizens have to pass in-depth background and criminal checks and know how to handle firearms safely to be able to carry a concealed firearm in the first place. We have a right to carry our personal property in our own legally owned vehicles without private companies and malls being able to search illegally and dictate what and when we can have in our own cars.
Your paper would not support for a minute the rights of even local police departments to search some criminal's car without warrant or cause in any situation. Why then the double standard?
Jay Love, Largo
Letters responding to NRA power play stomps on safety April 5
Going too far with guns
There is no doubt that the country and state are beyond help in reining in the concept of the "right to bear (assault rifles and concealed) arms." But there is no reason to expand what is already an all-too-broad interpretation.
All other arguments aside - from the dubious one of comparing having a gun to having a baseball bat in the car, to the idiotic notion that lax gun laws don't alter the scope and types of crime and, in fact, promote public safety - the NRA simply hasn't had its name in the papers for a while so it chose one of the most fanatical, gun-toting states to push an absurd notion that property owners, whether corporate or individual, cannot set reasonable rules regarding access to their own property.
Darren Clauws, Tampa
Cut and paste skill April 1, commentary by Jason Johnson
Term paper truths
Term papers are no different now than they were about 45 years ago when I wrote my first one on ESP in the eighth grade - except that now students have the luxury of finding their sources mainly online instead of in periodicals and books in the library.
Term papers, or more properly research papers, were never about student prior "knowledge" and "originality" but a way to obtain knowledge about a subject, get practice in understanding one's readings, in synthesizing information, in writing coherently, and, in the process, come up with a view of the subject matter. This is basically everything that Johnson describes. Only in special instances, such as senior theses or graduate school papers, is some degree of concept originality expected.
Of course students need to learn the correct ways to paraphrase and quote: Cheating has always been the same morally repugnant shortcut, even if it's so much easier nowadays because of the Internet. Unfortunately, teachers have to make their assignment topics more specific to make plagiarism less feasible, and also make liberal use of online plagiarism checkers like TurnItIn.com.
But it makes no sense for Johnson to confuse academic research with its stringent prohibitions on plagiarism with his company's in-house information needs. Only if Johnson were to try to publish this paper could he be accused of cheating. Far from being "dead," the research paper is an essential learning tool, and does indeed exhibit the student's "overall ability" to read, write and think, "very particular skills" that are honed only in the practice of them.
Shirley Copperman, Tarpon Springs
How to improve pre-K March 31, commentary
Concern is a little late
As a preschool director who has been in the field for almost 20 years, I appreciate any effort to improve the learning experiences for our young children. It is ironic to me that these former officials, now turned grandparents, are expressing the need for qualified teachers in preschools.
Early childhood development should always be a priority for public officials and all politicians. Early childhood is the foundation for all learning and behavior. From infancy until they reach kindergarten, these young children need the best opportunities we can offer them. By the time they reach kindergarten, so many learning opportunities have passed.
You can improve pre-K by offering more state funding so that we can afford to hire and keep qualified staff. The programs themselves need better assessments and observation tools. The state's Voluntary Prekindergarten program requires a ton of paperwork to be completed and faxed over. Contracts, forms, change of staff forms, etc. But how do we know how effective the classrooms are running? We do not look at the most important issues until it is too late. Not until, maybe, we are grandparents.
Florida could be teaching on a whole other level if our concerned former governors appreciated all of our young friends while still in office and could have made a difference then.
Jayne Goldstein, Holiday
The Babe stayed here March 31, story
A noble building
The article concerning Babe Ruth's occupancy of a Flori-de-Leon Apartments penthouse during spring training is an interesting note in the history this noble St. Petersburg building.
In the early 1920s, a group of people, among them doctors, lawyers and businessmen with their wives, decided it would be advantageous to own their seasonal place in St. Petersburg, rather than spend the winter in a hotel. They built what was to become the first cooperative apartment building - individual ownership of units - on Florida's west coast. Throughout the difficulties of the stock market crash, the Depression and World War II, they did not abandon their dream. They furnished unsold apartments and leased them, personally financing the project until the last of the apartments were sold in 1943.
From the formal opening in December 1927 and continuing today, apartment owners and their guests enjoy a multitude of social and cultural offerings, including baseball games in St. Petersburg.
Marsha Reynolds, St. Petersburg